Models have walked, shows have shocked, amazed and innovated, but what have we learnt from the fashion industry's busiest month?youtube/Dolce&Gabbana

Fashion month has come and gone in a whirlwind of oversized puffer jackets, ruffled collars and, of all things, Picasso, and has given us an insight into some of the emerging trends for Spring/Summer 2020. Here’s what we have learned from scrutinising the runways…

‘Unfunctional’ Fashion

instagram/off_white

From the likes of Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar, we’ve seen Off-White’s latest collection hit the headlines. Virgil Abloh’s creative genius, both for Off-White and Louis Vuitton, tend to make mainstream news, yet this season has proved a little different. Off-White themselves have branded the latest addition to their accessories line ‘unfunctional’, and ‘unfunctional’ it most certainly is: the bag’s silhouette appears to be traditional, yet the two large holes attract confused attention. The bag can be held by its handle, or with your entire wrist poked through the centre hole, meaning that the bag literally cannot hold anything inside of it. It takes the concept of ‘it’s for fashion’ to another level.

instagram/viviennewestwood

Off-White isn’t the only brand to jump on the train of ‘unfunctional’ fashion. Vivienne Westwood revealed her collection at Paris Fashion Week, designed alongside her husband and design partner Andreas Kronthaler. All things gothic and grunge usually spring to mind when discussing Westwood, however this collection proved to be both wacky and wonderful. A highlight, and an ‘unfunctional’ piece no doubt, is the hat modelled by Bella Hadid on the runway. A simple leotard was completely outshone by a towering grey and white hat, made of a variety of lace and chiffon, covering both her eyes and about three foot of the backdrop. ‘Unfunctional’ might be an understatement: there is no door way you could walk through without bending down drastically! But, like Off-White’s hole bag, it certainly makes a statement, for being used simply for fashion.

London Fashion Week saw designer Matty Bovan craft a pair of face goggles. Face goggles don’t exactly sound that ‘unfunctional’, but Bovan’s take it to another level. The huge, gigantic rectangle practically covers half the face, and serves as a magnifying glass for everything underneath. Bovan told Vogue that “when you’ve got them on, you can’t really see where you’re going”. If that isn’t summative of ‘unfunctional’, then I don’t know what is.

Odes to the past and looks to the future

Fashion is, as ever, a contradictory combination of churningly innovative and inherently cyclical. This season, though, saw what felt like an unusually large number of shows that alluded to Western fashion history, both recent and distant, alongside those that showed us a vision into an uncertain future.

The trend transcended different cities: Paris and Milan were united as I found myself caught between the 70s and 80s at Celine, Saint Laurent and Versace. Celine’s offering felt like a snapshot of the 1975 working woman’s wardrobe with all the, aviators, high-rise jeans and shirts with waistcoats that you could possible dream of. Even including flowing print dresses to capture the era’s hippy vibe. While Versace had all the 80s shoulder pads and puffed sleeves you could want, and Saint Laurent trod the line between the two with off-the-shoulder belted jumpsuits.

Tom Ford took us to a grungy, 90s, Matrix meets Hunger Games CapitolVOGUE/Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com

Meanwhile, in New York, Tom Ford took us to a grungy, 90s, Matrix meets Hunger Games Capitol. A blend of our recent past with our possible future – smokey eyes and long, leather jackets met flowing satin jumpsuits and bright, metallic moulded plastic breast plates. A little bit Xena, Warrior Princess, a little bit punk rock, it felt like not only a love letter to the 90s but a look to our future in a performative and provocative tone.

Jeremy Scott kept us grounded in 80s psychedelic neons, with punchy shoulder pads and tailoring; and, Thom Browne came with towering hair to match the corsetry and distinct silhouette of 19th Century glam. The list goes on and on.

In times of uncertainty, we tend to reach back into the past, hoping to cling onto what felt like a more stable time. Our attempts to look into the future are reminders of our continuing love affair with a hyper-futuristic dystopia. In fashion, as in many facets of culture, designers are wrestling with the inescapable turmoil that seems to increasingly govern our lives. By clinging onto the past, and launching into an inspired future, they’re willing us to make sense of the present, and providing hope that while things might seem testing, culture offers us the chance to escape and to champion change.

Sustainability

Sustainable fashion is everywhere, and has been for quite some time, proving that the environmentalist movement is going nowhere. In fact, shopping sustainability has become somewhat of a trend, with countless influencers and designers promoting the importance of ethically sourced materials, and cutting down on the fast-fashion binge-shops. From Dior, to Stella McCartney, this fashion month has been pivotal in the world of sustainability.

instagram/stellamccartney

Stella McCartney is one of the leading advocates of sustainable fashion, and she made sure to maximise on the opportunity that fashion month presents, gathering as many key fashion figures as she could to give a talk on climate change at the Opera Garnier. She asked the industry the question we all have been itching to know the answer to: “How can we encourage not only the youth – because hopefully, God, hopefully, they feel it and they’ve got it in them – how can we turn the light on amongst the people who are a bit older?” Stella ensured that sustainability was ingrained on the design floor of her eponymous label, using circles to symbolise the earth, as well as femininity; specifically women who are taking the environmentalist scene by storm at the moment.

The trees that were placed on the runway were dying trees that needed rehousing in Paris due to the city’s ‘subtropical climate’VOGUE

Dior’s initiative was reflected in the setting of their SS20 runway. We were taken to a mystical wood, with young trees growing from stumps on the ground. Dangling from the branches was the hashtag ‘Planting For The Future’. This was most likely Chiuri paying homage to Christian Dior himself, as he was known for having a fascination for all things horticultural. Yet, the sustainability factor certainly surfaced in conjunction. The trees that were placed on the runway were dying trees, sourced from countries like Italy and Germany, that needed rehousing in Paris due to the city’s ‘subtropical climate’. Chiuri commented that she wanted to alert people to the ‘state of the planet’, and alert us she did: we consumers of fashion were able to see a physical manifestation of what sustainability really looks like.

Reforming gender

For many years now, designers have chosen not to show purely ‘womenswear’ at fashion week, with some even merging their shows entirely, while others . This year has been no exception, with some of the biggest fashion houses, including Gucci, Burberry and Helmut Lang choosing to present menswear on the runway alongside their womenswear collection.


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For me, this has always felt like a step in the right direction. Although these moves maintained some of the harmful binary view of gender that has often been present in fashion, the breakdown of such rigid presentations of male and female fashion has to help a shift in the psyche of designers and consumers alike. And there is still a lot that gives me, and those others who believe fashion should transcend gender, a lot of hope.

Delhi-based designer Manish Arora brought a vibrant and glimmering collection to Paris Fashion Week this year, entitled “Love is Love”, flagrantly ignoring traditions of gender with drag queens also walking the runway. Even subtler styling details, strongly tailored suits and even trousers on women, that would have been scandalous half a century ago are now accepted without a batted eyelid.

instagram/manisharorafashion

While designers flaunt gender-bending aesthetics on the runway, celebrities and others in the public eye are helping to break down barriers. The famously unconventional Billy Porter has championed dressing that challenges assumptions, even embracing the power of dressing against gender to make others uncomfortable, and empowerment that comes along with that. Non-binary actor Ezra Miller has also been lauded by many for stunningly avant-garde and unexpected aesthetic choices on the red carpet and in photoshoots.

Fashion has long been a way to explore and subvert gender roles and expectations - from the first trousers worn by working women, to drag used by queer people throughout history to display and express their identity. And as a culture that prides itself on pushing boundaries, isn’t it time to push past the gendered assumptions and practices that in the end just limit and confine us?

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